TACOMA, Wash. – Inspired by each other’s artistry and their shared reverence for the Pacific Northwest, a Tacoma poet and a local music composer have collaborated on a series of original works that will be premiered for the public next month.
William Kupinse, Tacoma’s first Poet Laureate and associate professor of English at University of Puget Sound, and composer Greg Youtz, professor of music at Pacific Lutheran University, will host the performance Poetry Above the Roar: Erin Calata Sings Songs of Gregory Youtz. The free public event will run from 8–9:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 11, in the Mary Baker Russell Music Building, Room 306, at Pacific Lutheran University.
Erin Calata, mezzo-soprano and 2008 alumna of PLU, will sing a cycle of 10 pieces of music composed by Youtz, with words from Kupinse’s collection of poemsFallow (2009, Exquisite Disarray).
“William Kupinse’s poetry is elegant, mercurial, and slyly droll,” said Youtz. “His poems feel very ‘Puget Sound,’ full of moss, drips, and the occasional moments when the clouds, real or psychological, part—and indescribable glory emerges. My goal in composing this cycle was to find a stylistic analog to the tone of the poems in that interesting space between classical and popular song.”
The music, ranging from artsy to jazzy, serious to wry, will be performed electronically by a computer, which audiences will find sounds sometime like a small jazz combo and sometimes like a chamber orchestra.
One of the 10 compositions, “Point Defiance,” also will be performed by Youtz and Calata at the University of Puget Sound’s 2014 Society of Composers Region VIII Conference on campus, Friday, March 7. That performance is open only to conference enrollees. A digital recording of the 10 poem-song cycle also is in the works.
The free public performance on Feb. 11 will begin with Kupinse reading his poetry aloud, allowing the audience to experience the transformation of the poems from the printed word to the lyrical power of song. Writing on his blog The Making of Beautiful Things in Sound, Youtz noted that the words in a poem follow a poetic logic that “often unfolds in ways very different from the logic of pure music, and thus however the piece ends up, the journey of an art song is often quite different from that a composer might come up with were [she or he] not responding to someone else’s words. I just love this game!”
Erin Calata is an emerging mezzo-soprano in the Seattle-Tacoma area. She is a seasoned soloist, recitalist, and chorister, performing a wide variety of musical genres. She has sung professionally in the choruses of the Scottsdale Choral Artists, Arizona Opera, and Stuttgart Festival Ensemble in Germany. In recent seasons Calata sang with Pacific Musicworks in Seattle and the Texas Early Music Project in Austin, Texas. Currently she sings with the Pacific Lutheran University Choral Union, directs the Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church choir, and is a voice teacher privately and at Pierce College in Puyallup, Wash.
William Kupinse is associate professor of English at University of Puget Sound, where he teaches British and Irish literature, ecocriticism, and creative writing. His poems have appeared in The Fourth River, Green Letters, Cascade, and Cimarron Review literary journals. Kupinse was Tacoma’s Poet Laureate from 2008–09. A collection of his poems, titled Fallow, was published with support from the Tacoma Arts Commission in 2009.
Gregory Youtz is professor of music at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., where he teaches composition, theory, and courses in world music. His music includes song cycles, concertos, operas, and numerous works for orchestra, wind ensemble, choir, and chamber ensembles. Youtz is a lifelong traveler, drawing inspiration from numerous world traditions for his music, particularly from China and Trinidad.